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Rugby | Heineken Cup

Steve Mafi © Gallo Images

Tigers boosted by Mafi and Salvi contract deals



English rugby giants Leicester received a double boost on Saturday as two of their foreign stars agreed to new contracts that will see them stay beyond the end of the season.

Tongan international Steve Mafi - who can play both in the backrow and at lock - and Australian flanker Julian Salvi joined the English trio of brothers Ben and Tom Youngs and lock Graham Kitchener in agreeing new contracts.

Mafi, 23 and who opted to play for Tonga instead of his country of birth Australia, joined the nine-time English champions in the summer of 2010 and enjoyed a superb campaign last season, scoring in both the Premiership semi-final and the final and then was named man of the match in the domestic Cup final.

Salvi, 27 and a former captain of the Australian Under-21 side, is in his second season with the Tigers - although he had already played in England before with Bath - and has scored eight tries in 41 appearances.

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill was delighted that both of them had agreed to their new contracts.

"Steve and Julian have become key members of our squad and firmly established themselves among the outstanding performers in the Premiership," he said.

"I'm delighted that they have agreed to stay and that they feel this is the best place to play their rugby.

"Steve is just 23 years of age and we believe he will get better and better in this environment, playing alongside other top-class players.

"Julian Salvi is an important player for us as an out-and-out openside. He's just 27 but he's an experienced player and has been in very good form with us."

The English champions are presently fourth in the table ahead of this weekend's matches, just three points off leaders Harlequins.

The two-time European champions are also top of their European Cup pool, leading France's four-time Cup winners Toulouse by a point with two games remaining.

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